Some weighty thoughts

A long time ago, I read somewhere, can’t recall where, this was long before the Internet, so it was in a magazine, possibly “Prevention,” or “Shape,” or something along those lines.

A so-called health and fitness doctor said, “You’re ideal weight is what you weighed when you graduated high school.”

OK. There is one problem with that. What if you already had a weight problem then? Just because he seemed to have been at an ideal weight for him when he graduate high school, doesn’t translate to everyone having that same idealness.

For instance, I was just skin and bones when I graduated high school. I weighed all of 125 pounds. That translates to an underweight Body Mass Index (BMI) of 17.7. Normal BMI range for adults is 18.5 to 24.9. I was in the 9th percentile, meaning 91% of Americans weighed more than I did at my age and height.

I was able to suck in my gut so far, it would go up into my rib cage.

Skinny-Friend-That-Eats-A-Lot-Y-U-No-Get-Fat_o_101316

Yeah. I was one of those people who could eat as much as I wanted, not exercise, and never gained an ounce of weight. Those were the days.

Except it’s wasn’t my ideal weight. I was too skinny. For my height my ideal weight should be between 134 and 167 pounds. When I reach my current weight goal of 185, I’ll still be marginally overweight according to most health charts and I’ll have a BMI of 26.5.

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I was a 17 as a teenager and a 33 just a few years ago

But when I reach that, I’ll still be healthier than I am now and I’ll also be healthier than I was when a I graduated high school.

So I have no idea where that so-called expert came up with the notion that your high school weight is your ideal weight, because that’s just a stinking pile of bullshit.

What is your ideal weight? Well, you could look at all the charts and graphs and measure and weight yourself until you come up with an estimate or you could just go see your health care professional, discuss your health goals and desires, and together you can come up with a healthy and reasonable weight goal. They might even be able to prepare a diet and exercise plan.

Do not put any faith into the Internet or so-called celebrity experts.

As they say, consult your doctor before you start any exercise or weight loss program.

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A weigh we go!

I’m reaching what for me is a milestone in my weight. 

Me, after my thyroid went wonky

Back in 1999, I blew up like the Michelin Man when my thyroid went on the fritz. Seriously, I have one picture that if I find it shows that is no exaggeration. My skin is white and puffy and you can hardly see my eyes because they’re just slits surrounded by puffy flesh. My lower legs were the worst. They had lost all their hair and were like playdough. You could push in on the flesh and leave a one-and-a-half inch indent that would stay there for quite some time. (Anyone remember the old pulp fiction action hero, The Avenger, who had lost nerve function to his face and could mold it like putty, changing his appearance to that of anyone? It was a little like that.)

I thought I was dying. I was scared.

My doctor ran me through a whole battery of tests to figure out what was wrong — nerve testing for my carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, chiropractors for my severe back pain, blood tests to see why I was cold and tired all the time — which is amusing (now that I look back on it), because we had a ferret who had a thyroid problem and he lost all the hair on his legs, so my wife kept saying it was my thyroid; it took my doctor months to come to the same conclusion!

And my weight shot up because my thyroid wasn’t regulating body functions properly; I was retaining fluids and I was just too damned tired to exercise. This experience has also made me a little less critical of people with weight problems because as with me, it might not be their fault and might be a medical condition.

So since 1999, I’ve been well over 200 pounds. I think I might have peaked close to 250 before I started taking my thyroid medication.

Today, I weighed myself and I’m almost, but not quite, at the point where I’ll drop below 200 pounds. Honestly, I can’t remember when I was below that. Early 1990s when I was still running seriously, before I developed shin splints? 

Now I’m only a couple pounds on the wrong side of 200. Part of me wants to fast just to reach it, but my luck, my body will think it’s experiencing a famine and it will hold onto its fat reserves even more tenaciously. So, no. Fasting isn’t the answer.

I do think I’ll run more often now that I see I’m approaching that marker. Instead of running three times a week, I’ll try to run five. Yesterday was the first time i ran on back-to-back days and i felt good.

Even though i can see 200, I’m nowhere near finished; after 200, I’ll still have at least 15 more pounds to go to reach my goal, but 200 is a great marker indicating my goal is within reach.

Yesterday, for grins, I lugged around a 20 pound barbell. It was exhausting! And I used to carry that, and more, around all the time!

By the way, losing weight is hard. You have to do exhausting aerobic exercises, get your heart rate up, sweat, breath heavy, for at least 20 minutes at a time, every other day preferably, plus you have to watch what you eat, count calories, watch fats, increase fiber, eat more fruits and veggies, and drink a lot of water (not soda or sugary energy drinks), and even then, depending on your.motabolism, you aren’t guaranteed fast results or huge losses.

Anyone who tells you losing weight is easy or all you need is their magic pill or secret formulation or miracle diet or superfood, tell them to Fuck Off. In fact, punch them in the nose, give them a good kick in the groin, then tell them to Fuck Off. The punch and kick will be good exercise.

Eat right. Drink water. Exercise your ass off.

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New year same old goals

Yes, yes, I’m well aware it’s already the 6th of January and I haven’t posted my 2017 New Year’s resolutions yet.

That’s because I don’t have any. Not really. Not any that I sat down and agonized over.

My goals for this year are the same as last year and the year before. Just keep getting better and better, every day in every way.  But if you want something more specific than that wonderful life philosophy, then here, they fall into the following categories:

Health & Fitness: My goals here are simple. To keep losing weight. To try to eat healthier, with more fruits and veggies and a lot of pasta and cheese. To keep improving on my running, distance and speed. And to keep trying to sculpt my aging body through weight training by adding muscle as I lose fat.

Writing: Again, simple goals. Keep reading and keep writing. Try to write something every day. Maybe go back to keeping a journal of ideas and stream of conscious thoughts, like I did back in my early days of writing. I will also try not to get discouraged and try not to take Rejections as personal insults. That last one is a hard goal, because every Rejection sends me into a blue funk. I need to change my thinking that they aren’t rejecting me, they’re rejecting my story.

Mental Health: Yes, OK, let’s move on, nothing to see here. I’m working on dealing with my ADHD in all its manifestations.Maybe I’ll try to get back into meditation or something.

And that, as they say, is that.

Well, I do have one new unspecified goal and that’s in regard to politics. I intend to get more involved, contact my Representatives more often on issues of importance, and to join the resistance against the big orange turd in an attempt to prevent him from destroying all the progressive advances we’ve made as a nation over the past 100 years. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and only won the Electoral College by 80,000 votes in three states. He does not have a mandate. He’s disliked more than any other incoming President in history. He does not even deserve to be President. He represents the worst qualities of Mankind: hate, bigotry, intolerence, zenophobia, homophobia, and sexism.

Join the fight. Let your voice be heard. The election is only lost if you give up and normalize ignorance  and racism.

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Losing natural insulation

Just a quick thought. Since it’s now winter here (it’s 20°F here so please don’t say, “Well, winter doesn’t actually start until December 21st,” because I will hurt you) I’ve noticed the cold affects me more. 

I’m going to assume it’s because I’ve lost a layer of blubber, at least 20 pounds of its, and that’s the reason I’m feeling the cold more than I did before.

So cold that I’m often wearing a little winter skull cap or wrapping myself in a blanket. (And the first person who says, “You are getting older,” will join the previous pedant for a dinner of knuckle sandwiches).

To be honest, I haven’t researched if fat people are better at dealing with the cold than thin people, I can only report what I’m noticing with regard to my own body.

And I can only assume, since I’ve got at least another 20 pounds to go before I reach my goal weight, that I will only get colder and colder.

Thing is, I always made fun of those people who always are cold. I’ve always worn short sleeved shirts no matter the season. When others were putting on winter coats, I’d wear a light spring jacket.

I don’t want to be among the Always Cold.

 I don’t want to live my life in a Snuggle!

And here I had gone and tossed out all my sweaters and turtle necks because I was too hot all the time to wear them.

I really dislike clothes shopping.

Run. Lose weight. Get a Snuggie.

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Run Ed Run Part II

Revenge of the Splints.

And then …

I had no and then. Sorry. But what I did do is over the last two years, I’ve tried to lose a little weight. I ate salads for lunches and managed to lose 16 pounds.

And I managed to gain ten. But I didn’t become disheartened. Instead I took a long hard look at my eating habits. I’ve learned that I don’t eat because I’m hungry. I eat because it’s a mindless habit. 10am is snack time. Noon is lunchtime. 2pm is another snack. And so on. Well, I’ve tried to limit how much I eat. I’ve become a nibbler. Between a good breakfast and dinner I will now eat a few pretzels, some carrots or snap peas, an orange or an apple. And that’s it.

So I’m down six pounds at last count.

As the weight has come off, I’ve tried to run. And I discovered something else about myself: I’m an impatient bastard.

I want to be in shape NOW. I want to run fast and long NOW. So I started up on the treadmill a couple months ago and instantly set it for a 12 minute mile.

I did that a few times the first week. At the end of the run I was gasping for breath. And my shin splits started to nag me again.

It was a conversation with my doctor that made me see the light. I said, “I can’t run like I did in my twenties.” And he said, “That’s because you aren’t in your twenties.”

Well duh. Obvious, now that someone said it.

So how do I run at my age? Slowly. Building up gradually. I went back to step one. I used my treadmill’s programmed functions to run a slower pace.

I started running at a slow pace for 12 minutes. Just enough to sweat, but not so much that I was winded.

And it’s working. In the last few weeks I’ve worked up to running 1.5 miles in a little under 20 minutes. Still not so fast that I’m gasping like a fish out of water, nor too stressful that my shins are protesting.

Plus I’m doing various lower leg stretches and using a yoga roller tube thingie.

I just have to be patient, no matter how much I’m chafing at the bit to set a personal best in time or distance.

One step at a time, as they say.

I just have to remember to go slow and easy and with time, I’ll improve.

I’m running again and that makes me happy.

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An American Guide to Understanding Soccer

The World Cup begins today. If you’re like most Americans, that phrase is meaningless, as it should be. But if you’re curious, I’m here to help.

The World Cup is like our SuperBowl, only nowhere near as exciting. That’s because the sport involved is something called soccer, a sport the rest of the world made up because they were jealous we had all the good sports, such as baseball, football, basketball, dodge ball, wrestling, roller derby, curling, and hockey, which we share with Canada. And because they were jealous, they even named it after our game of football to cause confusion, hoping some unwary Americans would tune in and inadvertently boost their television ratings, which they already claim are in the hundreds of millions.

But they measure viewership, like they measure everything else, in those weird metrics, so if you were to convert that into American television Nielsen Ratings it actually equates to 15 viewers.

If you’re curious about the game’s history, read on. Soccer was invented in the 1950s by a couple of bored Germans who only had a basketball and a hockey net to play with. They tried shooting hoops, but that proved rather unsatisfying as neither missed so their game of Horse would have gone on forever until one of them in frustration kicked the basketball. The other German yelled, “Hans, stop!” Fearing the basketball would destroy their hockey net he made a spectacular leap, catching the ball just before it went in.

Hans said, “Hey, Fritz, that was fun!” And then they each took turns kicking the ball while the other tried to block it from going in. And thus, soccer was born.

It quickly took off because everyone could play it and you didn’t need any equipment other than a ball, two nets, and your mom’s knee high socks. Heck, even today the game hasn’t advanced very much equipment-wise. They don’t even own cups, which is why they stand in front of the goal covering their dicks.

A side note here, no one has ever fully explained why they needed this new sport in the first place when they already had one of the most exciting, balls-to-the-wall, manly sports ever in rugby. But that’s neither here nor there.

Americans first heard of soccer in the 1960s because of the exploits of one Brazilian player known as Pelé and because of the table game many taverns had known as foosball, which is what many Americans call soccer even today. “Hey look, Billy Bob, there’s a foosball game on the television machine.”

Sadly, soccer has only produced two famous players in the last 50 years, compared to the hundreds upon hundreds of stars American sports have produced. These were the aforementioned Pelé and more recently David Beckam, who was really made famous because he married a Spice Girl and a movie was named after him then his actual playing ability, as proven by how poorly he performed when he came to America. Now you’d have thought someone of his supposed soccer prowess would have been like Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordon playing against children, but no, he bombed worse than “Ishtar” with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman.

This lack of talent is one of the reason the rest of the world hates America so much, because we just naturally ooze athleticism but we choose to ignore their sport. They know if just one American made it big in soccer, then their sport would finally be accepted here and Americans would watch it. Sure, when pigs fly and America goes metric. Don’t hold your breath, bucko.
The rules of soccer are simple. Everyone runs around like chickens with their heads cut off kicking a speckled ball until some announcer yells, “Gooooooooal!” There is a clock that keeps counting up, not down as in the majority of sports that make sense, so they never know when to end the game and usually stop when all the fans have fallen sleep and its too dark to see the ball. One other thing about soccer, if you recall, the game was created by Germans, who have lousy hand-eye coordination. You know this from watching any John Wayne World War II movie; the Germans couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. And that is the reason they aren’t allowed to use their hands and why most Americans, who have the greatest hand-eye coordination in the world, can’t play soccer.

So there you have it, my friends, a brief history on the game of soccer. Now as we head into this weekend of World Cup festivities, you are fully armed with the facts so when some nerdy guy requests they put soccer on the tele in your favorite tavern, you can shout down the little freak with “Soccer sucks” knowing your opinion is now an informed one.

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Happy Writer’s New Year

While incapacitated after my shoulder surgery, I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect upon my writing career, specifically, the lack of progression toward success within my writing career. I’ve been writing off and on for most of my adult life, submitting stories since I was at least 15 years old, and collecting mostly rejections. At best, I’ve had one story published each decade. Not what I’d call an impressive showing.

I haven’t improved as a writer. I haven’t made any sort of inroads to a successful writing career. So I’ve had time to ponder about why that is. Sure I have ADHD and it was undiagnosed for most of my adult life and that has played a role in it, however, I’m not here to assign blame or look for a scapegoat. I’m trying to discover what I can do now to correct the situation.

In high school, I was anything but studious. Again, we can blame many things on that, but so what? It won’t change anything and wallowing in self-pity is less than useless. It’s actually counterproductive, in fact. The point is, I’ve had an incomplete education. Instead of paying attention in class, instead of learning grammar and studying literature, instead of breaking down short stories and novels into their component elements and learning what makes a good story, instead of concentrating on technique, I was doing my own thing. I’d read pulp fiction, The Shadow, Doc Savage, the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, E. E. “Doc” Smith, along with many of the then current science fiction and fantasy stories. Or I’d daydream, scribbling little pictures in the margins of my notebooks and textbooks ala Sergio Aragonés of Mad Magazine. Or I’d write my own stories. Stories that I submitted in my English teacher when we were in the composition phase of the English class and I’d get good grades on.

So, arrogantly, I thought I knew what it took to be a writer. A writer writes, right? I was already doing that. Therefore, I had even more reason not to pay attention in class. Learning that stuff was for the mere mortals in class.

As a writer, I was able to create my own voice fairly early on and wrote in my own style rather than create imitations of other writer’s works. My natural abilities as a writer were able to carry me through high school and into college, where I was still able to get good grades and comments from my instructors. They’d see something in my style and suggest certain authors I should read and analyze.

Analyze? Me? Why? I already was a genius, wasn’t I? A prodigy? So I failed to follow their advice. The only how-tos on writing I read were from “Writer’s Digest” on how to submit to fiction markets.

And submit I did. And rejections were received for everything I submitted. But all that meant was those editors were idiots. They just couldn’t recognize my genius. It was their fault I wasn’t selling, right? Not mine.

Fast-forward to today. After decades of writing, Ive sold a story in 1987. Another in 1997. Three twitter-length fictions in 2009. And finally, a story in 2011 and another in 2012. Not much of a record, is it?

A glance at that career makes it appear as though I’m just a hobbyist instead of someone who takes their career seriously. And the last couple of weeks have made me take a long, hard honest look at that career and it’s come up sorely lacking.

ImageLast week I picked up “Robert Silverberg’s Science Fiction 101” (formerly titled: Worlds of Wonder). While reading his very first essay, “The Making of a Science Fiction Writer,” he explains his own educational journey to becoming a successful writer, and during that journey, he read a book by Thomas Uzzell called “Narrative Technique,” and I read Silverberg’s account of what he learned from that book, which was that writing was much more complicated than he first thought. It just wasn’t taking an idea and expanding it to short story length. It was that a story is constructed from many elements, including plot, characterization, situations, conflict, style, and more.

And then it struck me like a cold slap in the face: I had no idea what any of that meant. I know what the words mean dictionary-wise, but not in a writing context. My arrogance had led to form a shaky, unstable writing foundation. In other words, my writing houses were being built upon a bog of ignorance.

Today is the beginning of a new year. I plan on making 2014 a year of education. I am going to relearn everything I should have learned in high school. I’m going to tear down this house of cards and create a sound foundation upon which to build my writing chops.

I’ve already asked for help on the writer’s forum I attend, Absolute Write, and they’ve given me many great suggestions, such as the Longman Anthology of Short Fiction and the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, for example. Now Norton’s sounded familiar. I thought maybe I had a copy, so I tore my library apart looking for it but came up empty, but I know I’ve seen it somewhere, possibly at my mom’s.

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So I’ll check her house, then I’ll check Half Price Books and the library for copies. Until then however, I’ll finish Silverberg’s book, which also has many great short story examples in it. I’ll break them down and try to analyze them to see what makes them tick.

Thus, my goal, or resolution, for 2014 is to spend it learning, relearning, and growing my knowledge of the basics of writing fiction in the hopes that a more solid foundation will help me to become a more publishable writer.

As Robert Silverberg said at the end of his essay, “only you can make a writer of yourself, by reading, by studying what you have read, and above all by writing.” Great advice that I will finally, after all these years, take to heart.

So instead of drinking a cup of kindness for times gone by, I’ll be looking to the future, to times as a better learned writer.

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